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Rock

Canadian Musicians Pay Tribute to the Late Steve Albini, Legendary Producer and Rock Frontman

The sudden death of the Chicago-based studio wizard on May 7 has deeply impacted Canadian artists who worked with and admired the influential musician, including Joel Plaskett, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, KEN Mode and more.

Steve Albini

Steve Albini

Facebook/ElectricalAudio

Canadian musicians who worked with Steve Albini are sharing their admiration.

The death of the legendary producer/engineer and rock frontman, of a heart attack on Tuesday May 7, at age 61, has made major headlines and elicited waves of sorrow through the music industry.


That response accurately reflects the massive impact Albini had via his phenomenally prolific career, one encompassing work on an estimated 2,000 albums, including landmark alt-rock records by Nirvana, Pixies and PJ Harvey.

A wide range of notable Canadian artists worked with Albini, and were quick to respond with effusive tributes to the Chicago-based studio wizard.

Toronto drummer, composer and author Don Pyle worked with Steve Albini as a member of acclaimed Toronto instrumental bands Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and Phono-Comb. As reported in The Toronto Star, Albini was an admirer of Shadowy Men, even sending them a fan letter that helped prompt the band to hire him for sessions that led to the trio's second album, 1993's Sport Fishin’: The Lure of the Bait, The Luck of the Hook.

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Pyle posted this tribute on Facebook: "Like so many others, I’m in shock about Steve Albini’s unexpected death. The first time Shadowy Men recorded with him was in his home studio where the band was in the basement and the control room on the second floor. I thought he was a masochist to also design Electrical Audio [his famed Chicago studio] with the control room up a long flight of stairs from the live room, but in retrospect it was a good way to kick back against the hours of sitting in a chair."

"My first home recordings were under his guidance, via a generous multi-page set of notes and diagrams to get me started, before the internet made that easy to find. He set this pic up, shot on Polaroid, as he sat on his work chair and slipped under the desk to try and make it look like a little person was at the controls. R.I.P. to a generous and brilliant force. It’s hard to believe. My condolences to his wife Heather."

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Alongside fellow Shadowy Men member Reid Diamond, Beverly Breckenridge and Dallas Good (later of The Sadies fame), Don Pyle was in the lineup of Phono-Comb, a Toronto band that recruited Steve Albini to work on their 1996 album, Fresh Gasoline.

Steve Albini would later work with Dallas Good and The Sadies, on The Sadies' 2001 album, Tremendous Efforts and then the 2006 live album, The Sadies In Concert, Vol. 1, recorded at Lee's Palace in Toronto (Pyle also assisted on it).

In an interview with Billboard Canada, Pyle confirmed that his late friend Dallas "definitely had a warm relationship with Steve. The Sadies recorded with him on two occasions, I think. I know Steve definitely enjoyed the experience around coming up here and doing The Sadies live album. Doing the Phono-Comb album allowed for more social time and friendship to happen with them. Steve definitely respected who Dallas became."

When Good passed in 2022, Albini recalled on X: "I had the pleasure of recording The Sadies several times, and the down time was as memorable as the sessions. Dallas and his brother Travis two peas in a pod," he wrote. "Less anthropologic than fraternally generous, they let me in and as much as I feel the loss I retain the warmth of their company and am grateful. Good man down."

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'Everything he did was so meticulous'

Albini was at the helm for Winnipeg hardcore band KEN Mode’s 2015 album, Success, and the group posted a heartfelt tribute on X: "Don’t know if I can put into words what Steve Albini meant to us, as an artist, producer, & person. I’ve never had a “famous” musician die that also slept for 2 weeks at my parents house. This one has a special sting to it - was a dream come true getting to make a record with you.”

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Montreal post rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor employed Albini on their third album, 2002's Yanqui U.X.O., recorded at Albini's Electrical Audio in Chicago in late 2001. It has been termed the group's most critically divisive album, with the fickle crew at Pitchfork giving it a low 5.6 rating and criticising the work of Albini. Other media outlets were far more positive in their critiques.

Popular Toronto punk band Metz used Albini on their 2017 album Strange Peace, and East Coast indie rock hero Joel Plaskett also worked with Albini. That was back in his '90s days as a member of Thrush Hermit, who recorded in the basement of Albini's Chicago house for three days. “He was a really incredible force both as a person and in his productions,” Plaskett told The Toronto Star. "I think of him as a documentarian engineer with a real esthetic. He really wasn’t making production suggestions … he was just making jokes a lot. But he was out of the way and yet also present in the way he worked.”

Acclaimed Guelph post-rock band King Cobb Steelie worked on material with Steve Albini prior to the release of their second album, 1994's Project Twinkle, one that would later be credited to Bill Laswell as producer. Group frontman Kevan Byrne tells Billboard Canada that "Steve came here to record songs for what would become Project Twinkle. He stayed at my house for a week and was a very generous and gracious guest."

"I think we were one of the first sessions he engineered after In Utero," recalls Byrne. "Steve raved about Dave Grohl’s drumming and insisted that our drummer buy new white-coated Ambassador heads. Then he used a heat gun to break them in. Everything he did was so meticulous. Tuning the drums, mic placement, recording without EQ.

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"Totally deadpan in the studio. We had congas so he called us Pablo Cruise and mocked us liberally. It was hard to keep up with his wit and sarcasm. We were recording at Metalworks, co-owned by the drummer of Triumph [Gil Moore]. At some point Steve unearthed a locker of Triumph stationery, pads of paper and envelopes with Triumph letterhead. And hand drawn portraits of the band members. We all grabbed some and used them to send letters to fans. But a really intelligent guy with a great knowledge of things. He conversed easily with my non-musician roommates when he stayed at my place. A really generous person."

A wide-ranging influence

Other Canadian rock musicians were quick to play tribute to Albini and his legacy, even if they never worked directly with him. Studio auteur/musician Jordon Zadorozny (Blinker The Star) posted this tribute on Facebook: "RIP dear Steve Albini. There aren't many people who have carved out and influenced such wide swaths of musical territory as did he. A self contained musical force whose highly individualistic methods and ideas made their way to millions of listeners' ears, his influence on music is of the Eno/Nile Rogers/Todd Rundgren scale and shape.

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"He was also the guy in the band, a lightning bolt of a performer and a record maker whose '80s output alone influenced the way a generation of underground bands' records sounded. I never met him, but I worked at his excellent studio in Chicago, and when I was first starting out, I faxed him a ridiculous question about mastering from cassette and 30 minutes later a very informative and friendly reply in the form of a fax came back, signed Steve Albini."

Zadorozny recalls to Billboard Canada: "I was flown down to Chicago to play drums on a Billy Corgan produced song by Melissa Auf der Maur [Hole]. Billy loved working there and Steve usually took the day off when Billy was in there so I never did get a chance to meet the man."

Acclaimed Toronto studio engineer/masterer Noah Mintz posted on Facebook that "I have had the pleasure of mastering some Steve Albini mixes from tape. A juggernaut in the audio engineering world. He will be missed!"

Toronto hardcore faves Fucked Up offered up a succinct and poignant tribute on X:

Read a full obituary of Albini's work and impact here.

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BTS' RM appears in the music video for his song "Groin."
Courtesy Photo.

BTS' RM appears in the music video for his song "Groin."

Music News

BTS’ RM Takes to the Streets for ‘Groin’ Music Video: Watch

The track appears on the K-pop star's new "Right Place, Wrong Person" album.

RM has dropped the music video for his song “Groin,” which appears on the BTS star’s new album, Right Place, Wrong Person.

On Monday (May 27), the RM shared the Pennacky-directed clip for “Groin,” which finds the singer and rapper decked out in a dark Adidas track jacket while dancing and rapping in the streets.

This article was originally published by Billboard U.S.

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